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When You Sense, Deep Down, That Something Is Wrong With You

It is entirely possible to walk through your life giving everyone the impression that all is well with you when, in truth, privately you are struggling.

I once ran a therapy group that met weekly to discuss the members’ life struggles and challenges. We talked about the group members’ careers, marriages, children, and relationships. Over multiple weeks of meetings, something profound emerged. Every single member of the group felt that they were somehow flawed in some deep and secret way.

Some felt damaged, some felt inadequate; some felt less interesting, less intelligent or less valid than other people. Some looked around and saw other people living vivid, engaged lives and wondered if those people had some essential ingredient that they lacked. All of the group members shared one important question:

“What is wrong with me?”

Once this feeling was identified in the group, it became a common bond amongst the members. It was recognized as such an important force in all of their every day lives that we gave it a name.

The Fatal Flaw

The Fatal Flaw: A deep-seated feeling that something is wrong with you. You are missing something that other people have. You are not like other people, so you don’t quite fit in anywhere.

I went through the next decade seeing patients and helping people heal. All the while, this Fatal Flaw concept sat in the back of my mind. It was years before I finally became aware of its true cause.

I found myself glimpsing the “Fatal Flaw” in one client after another, and naming it for them helped us to talk about it. More importantly, naming it and talking about it helped us see it for what it actually was: not an actual flaw. A feeling.

Every single person with the Fatal Flaw had one common experience in their lives, and I soon realized that this common experience was the cause. All of the Fatal Flaw people grew up in families that ignored or discouraged their emotions. All of these people had walled off their own feelings as a child as a way to cope with the emotional ban they had grown up with.

Now, as adults, they were living in a secret bubble of their own making. They are trapped, alone, inside their walls feeling separate, different, less-than and alone.

If you grew up with Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN), chances are, The Fatal Flaw is at work in your life. If you pushed away your feelings as a child, you now lack access to them as an adult. You sense deep down that something is missing (it’s your emotions).  And your life lacks the richness, connection and meaning that your emotions should be bringing to you. This is the basic cause of the Fatal Flaw. Most people who have it are not aware of it, and this gives it incredible power.

7 Ways The Fatal Flaw May Affect You

  • You are not in touch with your gut feelings, so you don’t trust your gut (even though it’s most often right).
  • It undermines your confidence to take risks.
  • It makes you uncomfortable in social situations.
  • It keeps many of your relationships at a surface level.
  • It makes you question the meaning and purpose of your life.
  • It makes you fear that if people get to know you well, they won’t like what they see.
  • It makes you anticipate rejection around every corner.

Left unchecked, your Fatal Flaw has the ability to hang like a rain cloud over your life. Held back from taking risks, questioning the point of your life, or fearing rejection all take their toll on you.

These seven effects will gradually wear away your contentment and your connection to life and happiness. So it is vital that you take control of your Fatal Flaw.

6 Steps To Take Control Of Your Fatal Flaw

  1. Becoming aware of your Fatal Flaw takes away its power over you. In your own mind, begin to call it your Fatal Flaw.
  2. Remind yourself often that your Fatal Flaw is not a real flaw. It’s only a feeling.
  3. All feelings can be managed. So start to manage this one. Pay attention to when you feel it, and how it affects you.
  4. Put your Fatal Flaw into words and tell someone you trust about it. Often, as with the member of my group, when you share your Fatal Flaw with a trusted person, it helps you realize how very false it actually is.
  5. Override your Fatal Flaw every time that you possibly can. Do the opposite of everything your Fatal Flaw tells you to do. If it says, “Stay quiet,” then talk. if it says, “You have nothing valuable to say,” say something anyway. Stop listening to this old feeling that is not helping you at all.
  6. Break down the wall that blocks you from your feelings. Instead, work on welcoming your feelings as the vital source of information, guidance, and richness that they are — even the painful ones.

Yes, your Fatal Flaw is powerful. But so are you. You have a great deal of personal power that is being drained by your Fatal Flaw.

So today’s the day. Declare war upon your Fatal Flaw, and start using your weapons of awareness, your emotions, your intellect and your words.

This is a battle that you can win. I promise.

Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) is often invisible and unmemorable when it happens so it can be difficult to know if you have it. To find out, Take The Emotional Neglect Questionnaire. It’s free.

To learn more about the Fatal Flaw, what causes it and how to overcome it, see the book Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect.

When You Sense, Deep Down, That Something Is Wrong With You

Jonice Webb PhD

Jonice Webb, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist who is recognized worldwide for her groundbreaking work in defining, describing, and calling attention to Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN). She writes, speaks, and trains therapists on the topic, and is the bestselling author of two books, Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect and Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships. She also created and runs the Fuel Up For Life Online CEN Recovery Program. Since CEN can be difficult to see and remember, Dr. Webb created the CEN Questionnaire and other free resources to help you figure out if you have it. Take the CEN Questionnaire and learn much more about CEN, how it happens, and how to heal it at her website

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APA Reference
Webb PhD, J. (2018). When You Sense, Deep Down, That Something Is Wrong With You. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 5 Aug 2018
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